Adventures in Eden – Review

During the pandemic, when we have been unable to visit gardens and places of interest during lock-downs, books offering us glimpses of gardens and their creators have taken on additional meaning. While we cannot visit in person, we can visit from our armchairs with the added incentive of creating that bucket list of places we might like to go once restrictions are lifted and where public visiting is allowed by owners.

Adventures in Eden: An Intimate Tour of the Private Gardens of Europe‘ by Carolyn Mullet fits perfectly into this garden getaway category. From the acres of white-blooming garden rooms on the island of Mallorca to the wonderful Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Scotland, Carolyn brings to us a variety of sumptuous landscapes and destinations on this exclusive tour of Europe’s most beautiful private gardens.

We are introduced to each garden’s rich history with profiles of intriguing owners and plenty of inspiration for personal ideas for our own garden artistry. The book celebrates the private garden and is a snapshot of the burst of activity in European private gardens that we have seen over the last 25 years.

Gardens are divided by country and some will be familiar, others less so. Gardens like Broughton Grange in Oxfordshire, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, where Tom brought 21st century design to a Victorian garden and Hopetoun House Walled Garden in South Queensferry, where the Countess of Hopetoun took on the old walled garden to make a larger family garden, inspired by designers such as Piet Oudolf and the late Henk Gerritsen.

I was pleased to see that Hillside, Somerset has been included in the England section. Here Dan Pearson and his partner Huw have created a very special garden in a small valley near Bath.

Also included is Norney Wood in Surrey (pictured above) – the delightful garden, created from scratch, by Jean and Richard Thompson.The above image shows the stone walk leading to the Thunder House bordered by clusters of catmint, hardy geraniums and roses.

Looking a little farther afield we can discover Marianne Folling’s Garden in Zealand, Denmark where she fully embraces naturalistic planting or the Jardin de la Louve, Vauclause, located in the middle of Provence, where Nicole De Vesian began the garden when she was in her 70s after retiring as a textile designer working for Hermes. Today, it is in the ownership of Sylvie and Pascal Verger-Lane who follow the previous owner’s lead maintaining the garden as a living work of art.

(above: Garden of Cosmic Speculation)

In addition to gardens from the four UK countries, there are gardens from Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy. Each garden has a short profile and there is a useful index at the back of the book with website details as well as a list of designers. Many of these gardens will be new to readers so there is plenty to discover.

The book is richly illustrated with photographs from a variety of photographers and garden owners, giving us an intimate glimpse of these private gardens.

Carolyn is a prominent landscape designer and the founder of Carex, a garden design and consulting agency in the Washington DC area. She is also principal of Carex Tours.

Adventures in Eden: An Intimate Tour of the Private Gardens of Europe‘ by Carolyn Mullet, is printed in hardback at £30 by Timber Press –

Picture credits: Top middle: Norney Wood, Shackleford, Surrey credit MMGI/Marianne Majerus; Lower middle: Garden of Cosmic Speculation credit Ray Cox Photography.